2_Green Bay Packers1

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NFC NORTH PACKERS 2014 STRENGTHS: • Rushing offense, wide receivers, pass rush Packers Offense The 2013 Green Bay Packers should stand as the best example possible of how valuable the quarterback position is in the NFL. Through seven weeks, the Packers were 5-2, had scored 30.3 points per game, and Rodgers had a 15-4 touchdown-tointerception ratio. When Rodgers broke his collarbone in a game against Chicago, Green Bay’s season fell apart in a hurry. Reserve quarterbacks Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien were so ineffective that it led the team to bring back Matt Flynn, a player who had been released by Seattle, Buffalo, and Oakland before his return to Green Bay. Fortunately for the Packers, Flynn played at an adequate level filling in until Rodgers was prepared to return for the week 17 game against Chicago. Even so, the Packers had fallen to a record of 7-7-1 and were lucky to still be in the hunt for the division title. It’s very clear that as long as Rodgers is healthy, the Packers will be very successful on offense. Rodgers is clearly one of the very best quarterbacks in the league, a precision passer who is excellent throwing short, intermediate, and deep. Rodgers is a quarterback who makes the receivers he works with better. Players like Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and James Jones have flourished with Rodgers while players like Greg Jennings have struggled since leaving Green Bay. It also helps that rookie running back Eddie Lacy emerged as a workhorse running back for a team that had struggled to fill that position previously. Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards on 284 2014 WEAKNESSES: • Run defense, pass coverage, pass-blocking GREEN BAY carries and was very good near the end zone, scoring 11 rushing touchdowns on the season. With Rodgers and Cobb back, the Packers should be in position to have one of the best offenses in the league again this season. There is no replacement for an elite passer and the Packers have one. They also have a deep receiving corps, a workhorse running back, and an offensive line that does a good job of run blocking despite often struggling in pass protection. Offensive Player to Watch In a league that is increasingly moving away from a rushing offense centered around one running back, the Packers have quickly embraced Lacy as their rushing workhorse. Lacy was the focus of Green Bay’s running game from the beginning. Despite missing effectively two games due to a concussion, Lacy finished fifth in the NFL in rushing attempts with 284. He had four 100- yard rushing games and a fifth game with 99 yards. At the same time, Lacy was not always efficient. He rushed for just 4.1 yards per carry and mustered just 27 yards against the Giants and 16 yards against the Lions. However, those efforts were during the time when Aaron Rodgers was injured and defenses were able to key in on Lacy more. In a full season with Rodgers at the helm, expect Lacy to become a more efficient running back and build on his successful rookie season. Packers Defense If there could possibly be a downside to having one of the league’s top quarterbacks, it’s that it’s easy to ignore the massive problems developing on defense. The 2013 Packers ended up tied for 24th in points allowed, 25th in yards allowed, 28th in yards per play allowed, and tied for 27th in passing touchdowns allowed. The Packers struggled against both the pass and the run. They struggled in the red zone and in the middle of the field. They struggled so much that, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, the Packers had the NFL’s second-worst defense last season. One of the problems is that star pass rusher Clay Matthews spent most of the season injured. The Packers didn’t really have a good alternative to Matthews as an edge rusher, so their one big free-agent acquisition of the offseason was to sign former HANNAH FOSLIEN/GETTY IMAGES SPORT Aaron Rodgers


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